Charitable LaVigne to run Boston Marathon.
WEST BOYLSTON - Hang around with Alexandra "Allie" LaVigne of West Boylston for any length of time, and you will walk away with a fresh dose of enthusiasm.
The 23-year-old LaVigne, known as the "energizer bunny" in college, will need all the energy and enthusiasm she can muster when she crosses the starting line in Hopkinton on April 19 to run her first Boston Marathon.
During the past few months, LaVigne, a 2005 graduate of West Boylston High School (WBHS), has been busy raising money and training for the 26.2-mile event as part of the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research.
LaVigne has never run the marathon distance, but she is no stranger to athletic competition. She was a standout soccer and basketball player for the Lions during her high school days, and she was a member of the crew team while a student at Washington College in Maryland.
LaVigne was a political science major in college, but while studying at Bond University in Australia one semester, she decided her future pointed more toward nutrition and fitness. It was in the land down under that LaVigne started to think about long distance running.
"I've always had a passion for health and fitness, and I just love it," LaVigne said. "When I went to Australia, I took all courses on nutrition and played the Aussie sports, like rugby."
In Australia, LaVigne started running with other fitness-minded students.
"Every weekend, me and four other college members joined a running team," LaVigne said. "We ran back and forth to the beach about seven or eight miles a day.
"They (Australians) are all about having a healthy lifestyle," she said. "I really admired that, and I wanted to bring that back here."
Enamored with the Australian way of life, LaVigne decided to write her college senior thesis on lifestyle changes.
"Every student at Washington College, in order to graduate, has to write a senior capstone (thesis)," LaVigne said. "It has to be related to your major, so my thesis was `How can we make the government, both at the local and national levels, implement a healthy lifestyle?'"
The thesis was well received, and the ever resourceful LaVigne decided to hold a "cook-off' on her campus to promote healthy eating.
"The cook-off was like the Iron Chef (TV show), and I made a healthy meal with healthy ingredients and I ended up winning $500," LaVigne said.
"My goal, this year, is to make my passion (of health and fitness) my career," she said.
LaVigne is in the process of becoming a certified trainer, and she would like to eventually work with children.
"I love working with kids, and I think it is so important that we start at a younger age teaching kids about health, nutrition and exercise," LaVigne said. "A lot of people consider exercise to be boring, but you have to be creative about it."
The idea of taking her fitness to a new level by running the Boston Marathon, and also raising money for a good cause came from a friend of her sister Brieana LaVigne (WBHS, 1999).
"My sister's older friend Alexis (Contos) ran her first (Boston) marathon through the American Liver Foundation, and that's how I found out about it," LaVigne said. "I chose this charity because you are matched up with a patient.
"I thought that (patient/partner program) would be so motivating to actually run for someone who needs a liver transplant."
According to the American Liver Foundation website, "it is one of the oldest and largest marathon teams in the Boston Athletic Association's official charity program. For over two decades we have helped thousands of runners train for and compete in the historic Boston Marathon while raising critical funds in the fight against liver disease."
As part of the Liver Foundation's Run for Research program, LaVigne was partnered with sisters Gracie (7-years-old) and Meghan (4-years-old) Bauerfield, of Milwaukee, Wis.
"They (the Bauerfield's) battle with alpha 1 deficiency, which is a protein deficient liver disease," LaVigne said. "Unfortunately, they live too far away for me to meet them, but they know what I am doing."
Through bake sales at WBHS and contributions, LaVigne is halfway to her goal of $3,250. Next month, she will be running Stu's 30K in preparation for the Boston Marathon.
"I've been busy training and, on the Saturday before Valentine's Day, I ran the last 17 miles of the (Boston) marathon course," LaVigne said. "My team (Run for Research) called it the love-your-liver run. We all dressed in red gear, and there were about 300 of us."
In just a few weeks, LaVigne will be making the long trek from Hopkinton to Copley Square in Boston and, if the going gets tough, her thoughts will turn to the Butterfield sisters in Milwaukee.
"I am nervous, but I'm so excited," LaVigne said. "I can't wait to cross that finish line. I'll just be thinking of Gracie and Meghan the entire time, and realize what a huge accomplishment it will be for them and me."
To follow LaVigne's progress toward her marathon finish, go to her blog at www.allie4liver. wordpress.com. To help her raise funds and reach her goal for the American Liver Foundation, go to http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/alavigne.
PHOTOG: Banner photo/BILL MARSH
CUTLINE: Allie LaVigne